CHALLENGES OF FISHERY MANAGEMENT TODAY
Fisheries provide a critical source of food and livelihood for millions of people. When managed properly, fisheries can augment the ecological, social, and economic goods and services upon which nations rely. However, although many countries are moving toward sustainable approaches to fisheries management, challenges still exist (Costello et al., 2012). Committees convened by the National Academies have already provided reviews on a number of fisheries-related issues including methods to improve fisheries stock assessments (NRC, 1998a, 1998b), commercial and recreational fisheries data collection and management (NRC, 2000a, 2006a), fisheries management (NRC, 1994a, 1999a), ecosystem-based management (NRC, 1994b, 1999b, 2001, 2002a, 2006b), training and recruiting of fisheries scientists and social scientists (NRC, 2000b), and how fisheries science relates to the law (NRC, 2002b). Rebuilding depleted fisheries is particularly challenging because it usually requires short-term sacrifices at a time when the fishing industry is already under pressure due to reduced yields and increasing costs. This management challenge is further complicated by poor data and a poor understanding of the system, climate or habitat change, the need to consider ecosystem function and multispecies dynamics, and the need to address socioeconomic consequences to stakeholders. A growing body of literature is exploring the causes of and consequences for overexploited fisheries (Botsford et al., 1997; Jackson et al., 2001; Myers and Worm, 2003, 2005; Pauly and Maclean, 2003; Hilborn and Hilborn, 2012), reflecting the reality that this problem persists globally (CEA, 2012; FAO, 2012).
Several countries have committed to ending overfishing through international agreements such as the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement of 19951 and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.2 Smaller countries and regions have begun to assess the problem through regional efforts such as the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA) that the United Nations Environmental Program/Global Environment Facility (GEF) called for in 1999.3 Effective management solutions to overfishing at the international and regional levels remain elusive in part because strong economic and institutional barriers complicate management and because the diversity of fisheries (ranging from large-scale industrial pelagic and demersal fisheries to small-scale multispecies coastal fisheries) requires different management approaches to be effective (CEA, 2012).
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA)4 is the legislation that currently governs marine fisheries management in the United States. The Act is implemented by the Secretary of Commerce through the National Marine Fisheries Service and eight Regional Fishery Management Councils. According to the most recent stock assessments of the National Marine Fisheries Service, approximately 20% of evaluated fisheries are overfished (NMFS, 2012). Overfished refers to a stock that is below the minimum stock-size threshold, which is often based on maximum sustainable yield (MSY)-derived reference points. The fishing industry and other stakeholders in regions with overfished stocks are concerned about the effects of the rebuilding mandate on their livelihoods, leading to a
4 16 U.S.C. §§1801-1884.
request for a National Academies’ review and analyses of the rebuilding plans required by the MSFCMA and their success.
STATE OF FISHERIES TODAY
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (FAO, 2012) recently reported that “[c] apture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 148 million [metric tons] of fish in 2010 (with a total value of US$217.5 billion), of which about 128 million [metric tons] was utilized as food for people, and preliminary data for 2011 indicate increased production of 154 million [metric tons], of which 131 [metric tons] was destined as food.” Aquaculture fisheries represent approximately 31% of this weight (Figure 1.1) and more than half the value, reflecting that sector’s growth during a global effort to meet demand while harvest levels for capture fisheries have leveled off at approximately 90 million metric tons since the 1980s (FAO, 2012).
According to FAO estimates, the United States had the fourth highest capture fishery landings behind China, Peru, and Indonesia in 2011, the most recent year for which global data are available (FAO, 2012). Figure 1.2 provides the volume of commercial landings in the United States for the past 50 years. Most notable is the nearly 30% jump in reported U.S. landings from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. This jump primarily corresponds to the increased landings of pollock in the United States by joint venture and later fully Americanized fisheries off Alaska (see Chapter 2 for more detail). The pollock fishery was and remains the largest volume fishery in the United States.5
The total U.S. commercial landings were 4.5 million metric tons, valued at $5.3 billion in 2011 (NOAA, 2013). Of that, 3.6 million metric tons were edible finfish and shellfish, and the remaining 884,052 metric tons were caught for reduction and other industrial uses (NOAA, 2013). In 2011, pollock, menhaden, salmon, flatfish (excluding halibut), and cod contributed to the largest catches by volume. In terms of production value, the top five groups were crab, salmon, scallop, shrimp, and lobster (NOAA, 2012).
Of the United States, Alaska accounted for both the highest weight and the highest value of production, followed by Louisiana, Virginia, California, and Washington in terms of weight, and by Massachusetts, Maine, Louisiana, and Washington in terms of value (NOAA, 2012).
In 2011, U.S. consumers spent an estimated $83.4 billion on fishery products, which includes $56.5 billion at food service establishments and nearly $25.7 billion in retail sales for home consumption. The remaining $1.3 billion was spent on industrial fish products (NOAA, 2012).
The social and economic impacts of recreational fisheries are very important. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that, in 2011, domestic6 recreational fisheries accounted for 69 million fishing trips (NOAA, 2012). Recreational catches are relatively minor in weight overall, but for some species, such as red drum and spotted seatrout, they exceed commercial catches.
Combined, U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries generated $166 billion in sales impacts, contributed nearly $44 billion to the Gross National Product, and supported 1.4 million jobs in the fishing sector and across the broader economy (NOAA, 2012).
CONTEXT FOR THIS REPORT
Concern over food security and the maintenance of historic fisheries paired with increasing demand on fisheries resources has caused many nations to develop rebuilding strategies. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, many governments committed to “[m]aintain or restore stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield with the aim of achieving these goals for depleted stocks on an urgent basis and where possible not later than 2015.” Prior to the 1970s, federal management of marine fisheries in the United States was minimal. The first major piece of federal legislation to govern marine fisheries went into effect on March 1, 1977, and was known then as the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA).7 The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA or “the Act”), as it is now known, has undergone many important changes throughout its history. Originally intended to reduce foreign fishing in U.S. waters, the MSFCMA has increasingly focused on conservation as the declining state of fish stocks has become more apparent. In particular, the 1996 amendments of the Act8 required that fishery managers develop plans to rebuild overfished fish stocks and that, where possible, the time frame for rebuilding not exceed 10 years (see Chapter 2). The 2006 amendment of the Act9 added additional requirements such as ending overfishing immediately, instituting annual catch limits, and implementing accountability measures.
Still, despite these requirements, some fish stocks continue to be overfished and some have not rebuilt. Efforts to end overfishing and rebuild stocks have resulted in economic and social impacts that some stakeholders consider to be
6 Including fisheries in the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.
7 Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Pub. L. No. 94-265, 90 Stat. 331 (1976).
8 Sustainable Fisheries Act, Pub. L. No. 104-297, 110 Stat. 3559 (1996).
9 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006, Pub. L. 109-479, 121 Stat. 3575 (2006).
FIGURE 1.1 Global productions of capture fisheries and aquaculture in metric tons.
NOTE: According to FAO (2012), China revised their production statistics for all years after 2006. Using these updated statistics; FAO estimated historic catch data for China between the years 1997 and 2005.
SOURCE: FAO, 2012.
FIGURE 1.2 Volume of U.S. domestic commercial landings over the past 50 years.
SOURCE: NOAA data compiled by committee.
unreasonable and/or unnecessary. In light of these issues, the MSFCMA and the related rebuilding plans continue to be scrutinized and their effectiveness re-evaluated. In 2010, through a letter signed by U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe and U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Congress requested that NOAA fund a study by the National Academies of the MSFCMA’s rebuilding requirements. Based on the letter request from Congress, and with further input from NOAA, the National Academies developed a statement of tasks (Box 1.1).
Statement of Task 1.
- Evaluate methods and criteria used (1) to set target fishing mortality and biomass levels for rebuilding overfished stocks, and (2) to determine the probability that a particular stock will rebuild by a certain date. Consider the quantity and quality of information available for defining maximum sustainable yield (MSY)-based reference points or proxies for such reference points. Compare these methods and criteria to those used in major fishery management settings outside the U.S.
- Assess the effects of uncertainty in current stock abundance, population dynamics, and variability in recruitment in setting rebuilding targets. Identify criteria for adjusting rebuilding targets and schedules based on new information and updated stock assessments.
- Provide an overview of the success of rebuilding plans under the MSA and compare to success of approaches used outside the U.S. Using a few representative rebuilding plans, identify factors (such as fishing mortality rate, life histories, uncertainty in stock assessments, and others) that affect the timeframe over which a stock is rebuilt.
- Consider the effects of climate and environmental conditions, habitat loss and degradation, ecological effects of fishing on the food chain, and ecological interactions among multiple species, and identify ways to adjust rebuilding plans to take these factors into account.
- Assess the types of information needed and current understanding of the economic and social impacts of rebuilding programs, particularly on fishing communities. Identify the economic, social, and ecological tradeoffs of rebuilding a fishery associated with shorter or longer rebuilding times. Evaluate available methods for integrating these social, economic and ecological factors when designing and evaluating rebuilding plans.
- Summarize how the social, economic and ecological impacts of rebuilding plans are affected by the structure of fisheries management measures, e.g., limited entry, catch shares systems, and closed areas.
- Identify the biological, ecological, social and economic knowledge gaps that impede the implementation and effectiveness of rebuilding programs, and determine what additional data and analyses are needed to address those gaps.
With these tasks in mind, the National Academy of Sciences formed a committee to develop this report. The committee consisted of 11 expert scientists from diverse scientific backgrounds and with broad experience in different national and international fisheries. Committee members included experts on fisheries management, fisheries science, biological oceanography, ecosystem-based management, environmental policy, economics, and applied mathematics. In response to Congress’s inquiries regarding the MSFCMA’s rebuilding requirements and based on the statement of task, the committee developed this final report.
The report is divided into seven chapters. The goal of this chapter is to provide an overview of the challenges associated with fisheries management, overfishing, and rebuilding. A brief synopsis of the current state of global and domestic fisheries is given, followed by the origins and context for the report.
Chapter 2 explores the evolution and rationale of the MSFCMA from its origins as the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, its subsequent amendments that introduced rebuilding and accountability requirements into U.S. fishery management, and the guidelines for rebuilding fish stocks.
Chapter 3 provides a detailed and technical review of current federally implemented rebuilding plans and the outcomes of those plans in terms of trends in fishing pressure and stock size, as well as changes in stock status with respect to overfishing thresholds and biological reference points. It provides detailed information on a subset of stocks assessed by quantitative fish stock-assessment methods and discusses the progress made to rebuild those stocks to date. Finally, although strict comparability across regions is not possible given the different realities of fisheries and fishery management institutions, Chapter 3 provides a brief review of rebuilding approaches and outcomes in several other countries and regions to place the U.S. situation within an international perspective.
Chapter 4 discusses the technical considerations associated with implementing a rebuilding plan. The chapter also
discusses the probabilities of meeting rebuilding deadlines as well as the challenges and issues associated with handling uncertainty and using the “best available science.” Chapter 4 addresses data-poor stocks and the challenges associated with the MSY paradigm. Finally, it presents a series of diverse case studies that illustrate the range of issues, challenges, and outcomes associated with implementing rebuilding plans for domestic and international stocks.
Chapter 5 introduces the ecological factors that are or may be incorporated into rebuilding plans. It provides a discussion of ecosystem-based management approaches and the challenges that impact rebuilding efforts. In the context of fisheries management and rebuilding plans, Chapter 5 addresses climate change and shifting baselines, habitat loss, and ecological interactions.
Chapter 6 focuses on “the human dimension” of fisheries rebuilding. It considers the socioeconomic aspects of fisheries and discusses methods for evaluating the socioeconomic outcomes of fisheries management. Chapter 6 also discusses the role of governance and markets in potential socioeconomic outcomes of rebuilding plans. The chapter concludes with a few illustrative case studies.
Chapter 7 takes a strategic look into the future and considers some of the issues that challenge current practitioners and managers—including shrinking resources, prescriptive constraints, mixed stocks, and data limitations.